We talked yesterday about Mitt Romney’s speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, and the fact that the Republican candidate still refuses to comment on President Obama’s new immigration policy. But it’s worth pausing to appreciate the fact that this part of the immigration debate wasn’t the only element on which Romney was vague.
Most of the media accounts of the remarks note Romney’s shift in “tone.” At a surface level, that’s certainly true – as Rachel explained last night, during the GOP primaries, the former governor positioned himself as one of the most anti-immigrant competitive candidates in decades, vowing to veto the DREAM Act, endorsing “self-deportation, and palling around with Pete Wilson and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Yesterday, Romney neglected to mention all of this. What a surprise.
But if he avoided a position on the goals of the DREAM Act, and chose not to address all of the positions he took before securing his party’s nomination, what is Romney’s position on immigration policy? As Adam Serwer reported, “Heading into the general election, Romney’s position on immigration now sounds more like a relationship status on Facebook: It’s complicated.”
The Romney campaign suggested this week that Romney’s speech to NALEO would finally fill in the gaps, making it clear what the candidate would do if elected. If so, perhaps the wrong speech was loaded into Romney’s teleprompter – we still have no idea what he intends to do about the millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Serwer’s report characterized yesterday’s speech as “a parade of sidesteps and distortions.”
For example, Mitt Romney’s web page states that “Illegal immigrants who apply for legal status should not be given any advantage over those who are following the law and waiting their turn. Mitt absolutely opposes any policy that would allow illegal immigrants to ‘cut in line.’” In his speech however, Romney said “As president, I will reallocate green cards to those seeking to keep their families under one roof. We will exempt from caps the spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents. And we will eliminate other forms of bureaucratic red tape that keep families from being together.”
Like much of Romney’s speech, this is just vague enough to give the impression that Romney has moderated on immigration policy without making an actual commitment to any policy changes. But does his statement about green cards mean that he’d allow the undocumented relatives of legal permanent residents to stay, which would be a dramatic shift from his prior position? It’s unclear.
Keep in mind, this satisfies no one, on either side of the political divide.
Less ambiguous, however, was the dishonesty driving Romney’s attacks on President Obama. Romney equated the recovery of the early ’80s to today’s recovery, assuming his audience wouldn’t understand the qualitative differences between the recessions’; he said health care reform “depresses job growth” despite all evidence to the contrary; he pretended the U.S. trade agreement with Panama doesn’t exist; and he claimed Obama didn’t act on immigration policy until last month, ignoring the Republican filibusters that killed earlier attempts at legislating.
In other words, Mitt Romney tried to play the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials for fools, hoping they’re not smart enough to know the difference between fact and fiction.